Magazine article U.S. Department of Defense Speeches

Veterans of Foreign Wars

Magazine article U.S. Department of Defense Speeches

Veterans of Foreign Wars

Article excerpt

Remarks as delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, March 11, 2003.

Thank you, Ray [Sisk, VFW Commander in Chief].

That was a very generous introduction. I almost think I should quit while I am ahead.

It's a real honor to be here and to be invited to address this distinguished organization. There are some important issues on everyone's minds these days. And I appreciate the opportunity to speak about those issues, especially with this audience.

For more than a century, the VFW and the VFW Ladies Auxiliary have done vital work for our nation--supporting the men and women in uniform, assisting veterans, cultivating civic responsibility among young people, and (perhaps most importantly of all) keeping alive the memories of how and why the United States of America has been involved in wars that were waged on soil far from our own shores.

You, the members of the VFW, are the best-qualified people to keep those memories alive. You served in those wars. You served honorably and bravely--from the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima, to Inchon and Pork Chop Hill, to Khe Sanh and the Ia Drang Valley, and a thousand other places where Americans have fought and sacrificed in defense of freedom.

In those conflicts, you faced different enemies and different circumstances. But one thing was constant: You did not fight for love of war or of conquest. You fought to free people from tyranny and to restore peace to the world. [Applause]

You fought in far-away places because it was the best way to protect America and the people back home. And thanks to your efforts--and the sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of other Americans like you--our country was spared the devastation suffered by so many others during the 20th century.

And every time, when the dust settled and the guns were quiet--as Secretary of State Colin Powell put it so eloquently--"the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead.... That is the kind of nation we are." [Applause]

Today, we are engaged in a new kind of struggle. Today's enemy does not arrive with flags flying and bugles blaring. He does not announce his plans, or when and where he will strike. Today's enemy is found in shadowy terrorist organizations and among the outlaw regimes that harbor them, that provide them training, and that supply them with weapons and money. If their objectives seem unclear, you cannot say that about their hatred. They hate us and everything that we stand for. And this enemy poses a mortal threat to the American people--as the whole world learned on September 11, 2001.

In the aftermath of that shocking event, President Bush pledged to destroy this terrorist network and its sponsors, beginning with al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. And thanks to the brave men and women of our Armed Forces--and the extraordinary capabilities of the U.S. military today--the people of Afghanistan have been liberated, and the terrorists have been deprived of one of their most important sanctuaries.

A new government that represents the people of Afghanistan has taken office, led by President Hamid Karzai. They are working to rebuild that devastated country, with the help of the United States and a coalition of 49 other countries from around the world.

Our military success in Afghanistan has contributed to other successes in the war on terrorism, in places as far removed as Singapore and Chicago, Illinois. A Moroccan detainee, for example, who was captured in Afghanistan and interrogated in Guantanamo, led us to three Saudis planning terrorist attacks in Morocco--all of whom were subsequently arrested, including one top al Qaeda operative. Another example was the discovery of a videotape in a safe house in Afghanistan, which led to the arrest of an al Qaeda cell in Singapore that had been planning to attack a U. …

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